Binge Guide

Weekly Binge: Bates Motel

by | March 3, 2015 | Comments

A&E’s Bates Motel returns for round three on March 9, and if its chilling preview teasers are any indication, we’re in for one helluva ride. The time draws near for this Psycho-inspired prequel to set the record straight on Mr. Norman Bates and his notorious proclivities– and we’re not just talking murder. Here’s why you should catch up with this excellent, spine-tingling thriller.

 

Bates Motel

Bates Motel

What’s the premise? Teenager Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mother, Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga), open a motel in a small Oregon shipping town.

What’s it like? From executive producers Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Kerry Ehrin (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood), Bates Motel is a modern-day prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s landmark 1960 psychological thriller Psycho. Don’t expect any Janet Leigh reenactments, however; this twisty, sadistic series is all about teenage Norman Bates and his relationship with his mother. You think Joan Crawford was bad? Farmiga’s Norma heralds in a new era of Mommie Dearest. And speaking of Mommie Dearest, Bates Motel, too, maintains a certain campiness through the terror.

Where can I see it? Seasons one and two are both available in their entirety on Netflix. They are also available on iTunes, Vudu, and Xbox Video. Season two is available on Hulu and A&E Online. You can also get the complete first and second seasons on DVD and Blu-ray.

How long will it take? Both seasons are composed of 10 45-minute episodes. You could crank this one out in a week’s time.

What do the critics think? Season one of Bates Motel is Certified Fresh at 81 percent and season two is Fresh at 86 percent. Most critics note the creative freedom Cuse and Ehrin take by setting the series in present day, and Farmiga and Highmore’s performances have garnered quite a bit of praise as well (including an Emmy nomination for Farmiga). The Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman wrote upon Bates Motel‘s 2013 premiere that “there”s more than enough intrigue and entertainment on top of Farmiga’s outstanding turn to keep viewers wanting more of this new-style nonhomage to Psycho.” Clark Collis of Entertainment Weekly echoed the sentiment, proclaiming that “Farmiga gives a performance to die for.” Of season two, RogerEbert.com’s Brian Tallerico said, “This is pretty far from the original Psycho and I like it when a show like this gets darkly humorous with its own legacy.”

Why should I watch this? Even though we’ve known this iconic setting for 50 years, Bates Motel‘s Norma and Norman prove to be complex, nuanced characters with emotional depth. Norma and Norman may be a bit — okay, a lot — off their rockers, but by most counts, they are pure in intention. Also, creative heavyweights Cuse and Ehrin know how to balance the grisly narrative with dark humor, and watching a disheveled mother sport a blood-spattered apron while disposing of a corpse with her placid-faced, 17-year-old son is morbidly funny. (And that’s not to mention lines from Norma like, “Why do crazy people keep gravitating towards me?”) The writers’ room remains self-aware in the best of ways, and Bates Motel‘s portrayal of its small town of secrets makes for an engaging cast of supporting players to boot.

What’s my next step? After you’re caught up on Bates Motel, it’s time to watch Psycho and Psycho 2. On the TV side, Twin Peaks is a series to add to your queue. From acclaimed auteur David Lynch, it’s certainly more surreal than Bates Motel, but if you’re looking for an ensemble series with mind games and suspense to spare, there’s no other quite like it. Plus, it’s making an anticipated return to Showtime in 2016. Hannibal on NBC is also likely to get your blood pumping — just don’t let Dr. Lecter see. Much like Bates Motel, Hannibal is a prequel to the Oscar-winning 1991 film, Silence of the Lambs. Finally, American Horror Story: Freak Show has another mommy-son story line that is equally disturbing and comical.

Will you be caught up with Bates Motel before season three starts? Let us know in the comments below!

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